We have lots of tips for golfing in specific languages, but what about other types of challenge? Has anyone wondered how to improve their answers?

What general tips do you have for gaining popularity (i.e. upvotes) in s? I'm looking for ideas which can be applied to answers to questions.

Please post one tip per answer.

Please consider linking to specific answers you feel support your tip.

Right now this is on hold as primarily opinion-based. My initial intention (not stated - my fail) with this question was in fact to address what is in @Sp3000's comment - a lot of pop-con answers are upvoted for the wrong reasons.

I would like to see answers that provide tips for creating quality pop-con answers. IMO tips to concretely help produce higher quality answers are more than just opinions.

Conversely I am also OK with tips recommending against specific things, for example:

  • Don't overdo formatting.
  • Carefully consider the use of popular/nerd-culture references. While these may attract buckets of waffly, unicorny upvotes, they don't always improve the quality of an answer.

migrated from codegolf.stackexchange.com Aug 27 '15 at 6:09

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that depends a lot on the type of popularity contest. Given that many existing questions are now off topic as "art contests" the two main categories that come to mind are image processing and underhanded. These require very different tips. \$\endgroup\$ – Level River St Aug 26 '15 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure whether I should add "post quickly" as a tip... \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Aug 26 '15 at 0:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xnor - you'd better post that as an answer quickly, before I do... ;-P \$\endgroup\$ – Digital Trauma Aug 26 '15 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DigitalTrauma Ok, done :-) \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Aug 26 '15 at 0:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ This surely belongs on meta tagged [discussion]. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Aug 26 '15 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterTaylor perhaps, though my understanding is that tips questions specifically belong on main \$\endgroup\$ – Digital Trauma Aug 26 '15 at 17:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's really a tips question. The real question seems to be "What constitutes a good answer to a popularity-contest question?", which is meta material. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Aug 26 '15 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this question belongs on the meta site. It doesn't make sense here. \$\endgroup\$ – mbomb007 Aug 26 '15 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterTaylor,mbomb007 I third the move to Meta. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Aug 26 '15 at 20:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ this is interesting regarding that everything is actually a popularity contest - in which people tend to vote for whatever the official criteria are. (except the +15 approved bonus, but that's much smaller) \$\endgroup\$ – proud haskeller Aug 27 '15 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I've flagged this one for migration :) \$\endgroup\$ – Zizouz212 Aug 27 '15 at 3:08

Post quickly

Thanks to the Fastest Gun in the West Effect, answers posted soon after the question tend to get more upvotes than ones posted later. Moreover, the higher-voted your answer is, the more people see it, the more upvotes it will receive.

For example, this tip, posted only 20 minutes after the question, is sure to get upvotes solely because of that fact.

If you tend not to see questions until hours afterwards, consider moving to another time zone, or not sleeping.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this applies, at least in part, to any question posted here. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex A. Aug 26 '15 at 2:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ The last paragraph reminds me of another tip, but I'll let someone else post it because this whole question makes me feel slightly unethical: Inject a bit of wit/humor in your explanation. We've all seen the "+1 for <something funny>" comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Geobits Aug 26 '15 at 5:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "consider moving to another time zone" =p. On a more serious side, this is true! And I have experienced when there were two answers posted almost at the same time, and both garnered the same upvotes for a few days, until one of them eventually won (and this case clearly it won due to popularity) \$\endgroup\$ – justhalf Aug 26 '15 at 7:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xnor - I feel a little bad - I encouraged you to add this answer, but now I have edited the question a bit to try to move the emphasis towards quality. For now I have retracted my upvote (no downvote yet :)). I'll re-upvote if you can edit to emphasize quality should not be compromised in the rush to get out a first/early answer \$\endgroup\$ – Digital Trauma Aug 26 '15 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Editing "to emphasize quality should not be compromised in the rush to get out a first/early answer" is obvious and dull and undermines the honesty and simplicity of this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitch Schwartz Aug 26 '15 at 22:16


Round here, we're all used to fiendishly obfuscated answers. While sacrificing readability is perfectly acceptable to squeeze one more byte out of a code-golf answer, it really doesn't cut it in popularity contests.

If you want people to upvote your answers, then they want to be able to easily read the code to understand what it is doing, even if they are not experienced in the given language you are answering in. If you must use some arcane syntax, then write useful comments or a good explanation after your code.

Good code readability includes, but is not limited to:

  • correct indentation
  • useful naming of variables, functions and other objects
  • self-consistency
  • adherence to common best-practices for your given language
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, but this also applies to code golf. Just because it's a code golf question, it doesn't mean you only have to post your golfed version. If you want upvotes, you should post an ungolfed version an explanation so people can appreciate the hard work you put in. (On the other hand, it's worth noting that some pop-con answers are golfed just for the fun of it, so this answer definitely applies.) \$\endgroup\$ – Level River St Aug 26 '15 at 0:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @steveverrill yes, but to a lesser extent. If you have two approaches in code-golf with the same byte count, then readability is a nice tie-breaker when deciding which to use. In code-golf if I have a shorter approach which is less readable, I will certainly chose that over a longer, but more readable approach. But yes, making your golfy little answer more accessible by posting a good explanation and/or non-golfed version is definitely +1-worthy IMO \$\endgroup\$ – Digital Trauma Aug 26 '15 at 0:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for making your answer nice and readable. \$\endgroup\$ – orlp Aug 26 '15 at 8:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Of course, if you wrote good code and would like it to be even better, you are welcome to post it on Codereview.se :) \$\endgroup\$ – Caridorc Aug 27 '15 at 12:48

Use pretty pictures

It sounds silly, but pictures are eye-catching. For example, many of the highest-voted answers to Calvin's Language Showcase Challenge feature images. However, don't include images just for the sake of including images; they should improve the post in a meaningful way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for not including a pretty picture. \$\endgroup\$ – orlp Aug 26 '15 at 8:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for emphasizing they should improve the post in a meaningful way. \$\endgroup\$ – Digital Trauma Aug 26 '15 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @orlp I don't think it would have improved the post in a meaningful way. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Alex A. Aug 27 '15 at 1:32

Something Different

Quite often the answers follow the same format/approach. Doing something which demonstrates thinking outside the square and attacks the question from a different angle will garner a few votes.

Of course this has to go hand in hand with the other answers here.

I think this answer is probably the best I can find at the moment. The idea of projecting the globe onto a cube ... in my opinion ... is brilliant and thinking outside the box.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for giving us something different. \$\endgroup\$ – orlp Aug 26 '15 at 8:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer would probably also be a good example. Disclaimer: I wrote that answer. \$\endgroup\$ – ace_HongKongIndependence Aug 28 '15 at 14:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ace That is a good example. Not quite what I was thinking of, but a valid example none the less. \$\endgroup\$ – MickyT Aug 28 '15 at 19:49

Explain your work

This tip is for the more complex popularity contests where your approach to the problem is important. It's one thing to have an answer that works wonders, but people are going to like it even better if they actually understand what it is that you're doing.

The more reproducible your explanation is, the better, but try not to overcomplicate the explanation and keep it to a moderate length. If you have an image that illustrates your approach well, then adding it might help break the wall-of-text monotony.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Shouldn't that be the case for all challenges and not just popularity contests? \$\endgroup\$ – The_Basset_Hound Aug 26 '15 at 1:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 well explained. \$\endgroup\$ – orlp Aug 26 '15 at 8:53

Add a cow to your answer

< Add a cow to your answer >
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

One of my answers long long ago, when code-golf was still on stackoverflow, got far more votes than it deserved.

Any kind of ascii-art code styling seems to go down quite well

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the cow. \$\endgroup\$ – orlp Aug 26 '15 at 8:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for the cow. ;-) In an attempt to get the question reopened, I've edited it to give more of an emphasis to tips for creating quality answers. I think I'd be happier with a tip saying something like "Don't add gratuitous, unrelated ascii-art to your answer, unless it really does increase quality by adding something meaningful". Or something \$\endgroup\$ – Digital Trauma Aug 26 '15 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer just the way it is. I hope you don't capitulate to Digital Trauma's naysaying. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitch Schwartz Aug 26 '15 at 21:55

Spread the common sense

Try to come up with some very simple and obvious basic ideas (the implementation isn't necessarily easy), where others aren't very sure about it really works, and they aren't sure everybody knows that. And after seeing your answer, they are sure.

Keep the basic idea simple, while it should seems that it need some effort, specific knowledge (even if irrelevant), or enough sanity to complete your answer.

It's better that users will think your idea should become very obvious to everyone later, and it is definitely not very obvious that everyone (the asker for example) can come up with this idea for now.

You make the later repetitions of this idea less surprising, and users (which are mostly new to this site) want them to be less surprising to everyone. In reality they can surprise new users, but users can lie to themselves that they won't. Ideally users won't be distracted by similar things in later posts. And users against the common sense have to explain more for their points. Then you will probably have an upvote.

The example is on StackOverflow: https://stackoverflow.com/a/1732454/3998030

Positively, it may mean to change your perspective, but measured in a slightly different way.

I'm not sure whether it really works well, and how practical it is. And I don't think it is a good idea to do it too often, unless we still want something like code-trolling. But I think my top-voted answers satisfied this criterion well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for use of common sense. \$\endgroup\$ – John Odom Aug 26 '15 at 22:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – jimmy23013 Sep 1 '15 at 15:53


Research has shown that the amount of humor in a post is positively correlated with the number of upvotes. Therefore, adding humor is a guaranteed method to get the popular vote.


Link to your answers

Linking from newer answers to older ones makes people revisit your older ones, and possibly vote.

I'm not sure if it's a tip or a way to cheat - it surely helps you get votes, but I can't say that it provides better answers.

This is in addition to my other answer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure this is a good idea; it seems too much like self-advertising. If people really want to vote on your other answers, they can always visit your user page. \$\endgroup\$ – ETHproductions Sep 4 '15 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ This does seem underhanded, but apart from that you'd be better off linking from your older answers to your newer ones due to the FGITW effect \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Oct 31 '18 at 21:57

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